Types of Legal Fees
Since the 1970’s, the billable hour has been the most common way lawyers charge for their services. Many clients have grown comfortable with the billable hour because it is what they know and think they can equate time spent on a matter with better results. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The billable hour can reward an attorney for working inefficiently and impractically, which doesn’t create any value for the client. I am building this law firm based on long-term relationships and the trust that those relationships generate. I want you to be a client for life and my billing practices reflect that. I’ll never send you an invoice that I wouldn’t send my mom. I’m open to alternative fee arrangements and competitive bidding if you have interviewed more than one firm. I appreciate the opportunity to earn your business.
My standard hourly rate is $320 per hour. As discussed below, my strong preference is to find another fee arrangement such as a flat/fixed fee or subscription fee model that works for both of us.
Unfortunately, many types of matters are appropriate for a standard hourly arrangement, especially is situations where we are just getting to know and work with each other. Generally, when it is difficult for either of us to predict the total amount of effort that is going to be needed, an hourly arrangement makes the most sense for both of us. Examples of these situations are (1) the drafting of a multi-party LLC Operating Agreement where each of the members are represented by separate counsel; (2) the negotiation of an exclusive vendor agreement with a Fortune 1000 company’s in-house counsel; and (3) the resolution of an ongoing dispute with a business partner over his premature departure from the business.
Even when we both agree to an hourly arrangement, I will do my best to estimate how many hours I think it will take so I can work within your budget. Unless unforeseen events arise, I will stick to that budget and if it is looking like we’re getting off track, I will communicate that to you so there are no surprises and you can make informed decisions on how to proceed.
Despite the resistance of many attorneys, some legal services have become commodities and are priced by the legal community as such. For these types of services, I offer flat fees (also called “fixed fees”) because that’s what the market demands and the universe of possible outcomes is somewhat limited. Examples of services that are offered on a flat fee basis are (1) formation of single-owner corporations and LLC’s; (2) basic estate plans; and (3) template agreements like employment agreements and non-disclosure agreements.
For flat fees to really work well for you, you need to be working with an attorney that you trust will go the extra mile despite the fact that he or she will not be getting any extra pay. Some attorneys will shirk their responsibilities once they realize that their effective hourly rate is less than their standard hourly rate. Because my mission is to build long-term client relationships, you can trust that I will put forth that extra effort that it takes to produce exceptional results regardless of the fees.
To account for substantially changed circumstances, some flat fee agreements might also include an agreement to revisit the fees due if the scope of the project changes or there are other significant changes from the time the fee is agreed to and when the services are delivered. This accounts for unforeseen circumstances and allows me to offer flat fees that aren’t hedged to protect me from the risk that a project will change dramatically. Typically, if the scope changes, we’ll sit down and discuss whether increasing the flat fee makes sense or simply converting to an hourly arrangement at some later stage is better.
A subscription fee model (sometimes called a true retainer arrangement) requires that you to pay a flat monthly rate in advance and I handle whatever legal needs come up during that particular month within a predetermined scope. For many clients, a specifically tailored subscription fee arrangement is ideal because it completely eliminates that hesitation to call me to discuss a legal question or issue. Too often, clients elect not to call their attorneys for fear of a bill for the telephone call or email response. Sometimes, that small issue becomes a much bigger issue requiring a much larger expense to try and resolve it after the damage has been done. The subscription fee eliminates that internal conflict and aligns our interests.
No one subscription fee is right for every client. Usually, a subscription is most appropriate after we have been working together for several months so we can determine your needs in an average month. Despite this, I am happy to quote a subscription fee to you based on your estimated needs. Typically, I like to revisit the subscription fee every 90 days to make sure that we are both happy with the arrangement because if either of us feels cheated by the arrangement my mission of building long-term relationships with clients will not be realized.
Frequently Asked Questions
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Although I prefer checks, invoices are delivered electronically via email and include a link to pay online through PayPal®. Unlike other firms, I do not charge you back the processing fee imposed by the merchant processors. I consider it a cost of doing business.
You can also click here and pay by credit card through my Law Pay site. Law Pay is a vendor approved by the American Bar Association and the San Diego County Bar Association. With both PayPal and Law Pay, your personal information is secure and payments/deposits will be treated properly.
This isn’t your father’s law firm. I won’t nickel and dime you by seeking reimbursement for standard postage, research charges, copy charges, scanning charges, or credit card transaction fees, for example.
If I need to send something certified or via FedEx, I will advance the cost and ask to be reimbursed. If we are forming a new entity for you, I will ask that you deposit a certain amount in my client trust account to cover the hard costs. If we are transferring real estate into an LLC or into a trust, I will advance the recording costs and ask to be reimbursed. If you fail to pay an invoice within 30 days of its delivery, I reserve the right to charge interest, but I probably won’t unless you have a pattern of failing to pay on time. If you have a habit of paying your invoices late, I’m unlikely to continue to advance costs for you.
Depending on your needs, I am happy to provide a free consultation. If you are evaluating whether to retain an attorney or interviewing attorneys for upcoming projects, I’m happy to compete for your business and certainly won’t charge you for an introductory meeting. I’m willing to match other quotes if we’re comparing apples to apples and I think we’re good fit for each other. I’d love a chance to earn your business.
Sometimes, however, people just have a few questions and want a lawyer to listen to their issues and give them some quick advice. They don’t want to go through the process of retaining a law firm. They just want some answers. I offer flat fee consultations for $300 and will meet with you for as long as it takes (generally, an hour). There’s no pressure to retain me, but if you do, I’ll credit you back that $300 towards the initial deposit.
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